When Valeria Jacobs first toured her Castro Valley, California, cottage in 2018, she knew she’d need to make a few changes. She fell in love with the airy picture windows in the 1,400-square-foot, three-bedroom house, but the place needed some customizing for her family of five. “For me, the most important thing was to make the space warm,” says the entrepreneur and interior stylist. “I knew it needed some fixes, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money.”
Her first order of business was to create a nursery for their daughter, Eleanor. She started with a large-scale printed wall mural from Anewall as a jumping-off point, then added lots of cozy layers to make it welcoming for a one-year-old. In her sons’ bedroom, Domenic and Fadrique, she painted the bottom half of the wall a moody green, mimicking the effect of wainscoting in a more modern—and budget-friendly—way.
For the living room, a mix of photographs and art from her native Peru was the starting point. “A gallery wall is very personal, with photos that tell a story about the family that lives inside the house,” Jacobs says. “And for my kids, it’s a reminder of the happy times we’ve had together.”
The keys to adding personality to a rental, says Jacobs, are layers, accessories, and creative work-arounds. Just take the contact-paper “tile” she added around the fireplace and the vinyl adhesive decals she installed in the kitchen for a subway tile–inspired backsplash—both convey a custom-tailored feel without the cost or permanence.
On trips to the thrift store, she collects baskets as an affordable way to add texture and character to a room—either as wall decor or simply to organize. “In a small space, clutter can add up fast,” she says. “Donate often and don’t buy something if you don’t have anywhere to put it!” Other tricks she used to make the rental feel more spacious included hanging curtains a few inches higher than window frames to create the illusion of taller ceilings and using rugs to define different areas within a space.
Her biggest investment was putting a shed in the garden to store inventory for her home-decor company, Rebecca & Genevieve, named for her grandmother and mother. Jacobs launched the business to help support her husband, Paul, as he earned his degree in mechanical engineering. “I was looking for a decorative outlet and a way to help provide for our family,” she says. What began as Jacobs selling a dozen vintage Turkish rugs a month via Instagram has become a thriving business that includes pillows, art, and design-consulting services.
Next on her list? The family of five is buying a home, and Jacobs can’t wait to start the design process all over again. “Decorating this house has given me the confidence I needed to express myself and be myself,” she says. “To be able to share more of the things I love with my followers, and also to provide for my family while spending time with them, is what I love most.”
This article originally appeared in our Harvest 2020 issue. Get the magazine here.